Hockey’s demolition job

England will face familiar opponents tomorrow in the semi-finals of the Hockey world cup, with a clash of sticks against reigning Olympic and world champions Germany. England defeated the Germans in the final of the 2009 European Championships, however, so the winner is likely to start as favourite in Saturday’s final against either Australia or Holland.

The biggest hockey match featuring a British team since the 1988 (the ‘Where were the Germans?’ Olympics)  is being broadcast live in the UK on Zing (Sky channel 789), Freesat 509, and on the BBC red button (for Satellite and Cable platforms, but not on Freeview). Those without access to this eclectic bunch of channels, can see the game broadcast live by the Daily Telegraph at telegraph.co.uk/hockeylive.

That the game – and hopefully the partisan final which follows – is not being shown on terrestrial TV is a significant missed opportunity.  As European champions it was highly predictable that England would do well in this tournament, and this was a chance for a national broadcaster, such as the BBC, to create a buzz around a sport which, let’s face it, is much more relevant to most people in the UK than hurling oneself down a mountain on a tray.

It’s been open season with criticism of the BBC for the last week or so: an announcement that 6 Music is being scrapped to pay for hockey broadcast rights is not anticipated. (And you can’t go shifting Nature’s Top 40 and Castle in a Country around the BBC2 schedule on a whim). In this season of beeb-slagging, however, it’s worth remembering that the responsibility of sports’ administrators covers broadcast opportunities as well as performance.

Win or lose against Germany, some additional interest in the sport of hockey will have been generated at a perfect time to build towards the London Olympics. Minor sports, however, are regularly faced with difficult decisions in their attempts to balance their desire for growth with the interest of the British public. Hockey has made regular wrong-turns since the glory night of 1988, and administrators of any minor sport will do well to note the delicious irony that England could win the world cup on Saturday less than 100 days after the national hockey stadium in Milton Keynes begun to be demolished.

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